Thursday, August 01, 2013

Authorities Didn't Inform Amber Lowery's Family of Positively Identified Remains, Brother Speaks Out

Nearly six months after she was reported missing near Rising Star, Amber Lowery's family has been told forensic tests show the remains found are hers. Michael Lowery, Amber's husband, was arrested for her murder even before her remains were found. Now we're hearing from Amber's family, who says they have been kept in the dark about the investigation. KTAB's Victor Sotelo spoke with Amber's brother about how the case is being handled. 

Ryan Christensen, Amber's brother, explained to us one of the last things his sister said to him before her death.

"Ryan I just need to tell you, that if anything happened to me, that Mike did it." Christensen said.

The details are still fresh in his mind, just as you wold expect them to be. He knew something was wrong back in July of 2013, when her husband Michael Lowery said she left their ranch by herself.

"I was assuming she was missing, because Mike's story was, 'I don't know where she is at, we had a fight and she left." Christensen states.

Now they know for sure, it was his sister's body who was found on their ranch. Something Christensen, and his family, knew in their heart when her remains were first found.

"They found her vehicle in Rising Star, they put a few more things together," Christensen said, "and shortly after that Mike was arrested with charges of murder in the first degree."

However, the positive I.D. is something the Comanche County authorities new since last October. Christianson says after leaving several messages, he had to go to Comanchy County to find out.

"Next of kin should have been notified sooner than this, in my opinion."

Now he wants to be sure the next step is taken.

"We want this legal system to prosecute Mike, the way that he needs to be prosecuted, plain and simple."

Michael Lowery is awaiting trial in Comanche County and the family says they are expecting a summer time trial.

Update: 10:11 pm

It's the news many who followed the case expected, but it's still tough to swallow for family and friends of 34-year-old Amber Lowery. After more than five months, investigators in Comanche County released information that confirmed the remains found last year are that of Amber. A team at the Forensic Service Unit at the University of North Texas matched Amber's DNA to that taken from the remains found. No additional information was released today regarding their findings.

Lowery disappeared on July 23, 2013. One day later, her brother reported her as missing, after she failed to show up to meet him.When detectives first began their investigation into Amber's disappearance, her husband told investigators he'd last seen his wife on the night she disappeared, and he claimed he hadn't heard from her following that night. Everyone soon found out that was not the truth, when on July 30 he was arrested and charged with her murder. Authorities revealed Michael drove his wife's missing vehicle to Rising Star, where it sat abandoned until days before his arrest. Michael Lowery is being held in the Comanche County jail on a $1 million bond.

Following his arrest, Amber's siblings shined light on her relationship with her husband. They were aware of his abusive past and were concerned for the safety of their sister. And with today's news, it seems rightfully so.

It's been more than five months since human remains were found on the property surrounding the Lowery residence. Since then, a team at the forensic service unit at the University of North Texas has worked to match the remains to a name. Today, with confirmation from investigators in Comanche County, we now are sure the remains are that of Amber Lowery.

Lowery disappeared on July 23, 2013, and a day later was reported missing after failing to show up to meet her brother. Then, Amber's husband, Michael Lowery, told police he'd last seen his wife the night before, and hadn't heard from her since. On July 27,2013, investigators got a lead in the case when Amber's missing vehicle was discovered abandoned in Rising Star.

Days later on July 31, during an execution of search warrants, the human remains, we now know to be that of Amber, were found. Michael Lowery was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife. Today, he remains at the Comanche County jail on a $1 million bond.

The details surrounding Amber's case did not come as a surprise to her siblings. They were aware of her husband's abusive past, and they all say Amber shared with them concern that he might turn on her in the future. Today's news proves what both Amber and her siblings all feared.

Amber's eldest brother posted this message today on a Facebook page created last year during the search for her remains. In the post, he writes:"It is with a heavy heart that as her eldest brother I come before the community and family and friends that have waited since July of 2013 to hear or not hear the words I put before you now...She is missed every single day and we will patiently wait for justice to be served as a result of tacts that took her from her family and friends and all of those that may not have even met her but diligently took by and shared in the sorrow felt by all."

Story and Videos:

 Amber Lowery is pictured standing near Air Evac Lifeteam's Bell helicopter in June 2012.
Photo Courtesy:   STEVE NASH, Brownwoodbulletin

 Amber Lowery was photographed in the pilot's seat of an Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter in June 2012. 
By STEVE NASH,  Brownwood Bulletin

Amber Lowery

 Michael Logan Lowery

Comanche County Justice of the Peace Johnny Conine's office released the following affidavits Wednesday pertaining to the arrest of Mike Lowery: 

 • A probable cause affidavit filed by Comanche County Sheriff's investigator Ken Maltby, which states, among other numerous details, that Amber Lowery was supposed to have met with Comanche attorney Jud Woodley on July 26 to talk about a divorce.

• An affidavit for a  search warrant for the property where the Lowerys have lived, filed by Texas Ranger Danny Crawford.

• An affidavit for a search warrant for Mike Lowery's cell phone filed by Texas Ranger Corey Lain.

The affidavits mirror much of the information released earlier by Amber Lower's brother, Ryan Christensen, who gave interviews to the Bulletin for articles published in Tuesday's and Wednesday's print editions.

The affidavits indicate the following timeline:

Tuesday, July 23

Mike Lowery began driving at 3 p.m. for Sabine Pass, a neighborhood of Port Arthur, for his two-week stint as an offshore helicopter pilot.

That night, Amber and her brother, Ryan Christensen, spoke by phone. Amber told her brother the relationship between her and Mike had "blown up" and if she didn't make it to Bluff Dale the next morning, where she was to help tend to matters involving her late parents' estate, Mike "had done something to her."

At some point, Mike Lowery apparently turned around and drove back home.

Wednesday, July 24

A couple of events occurred Wednesday in Rising Star which no one in law enforcement or in the Christensen family knew about until several days later. They were to be significant events.

Around 7 a.m., a Rising Star man saw a "tannish SUV" driven by Mike Lowery pull into a parking lot outside an abandoned laundry mat on Mayben Street in Rising Star. No one knew then that there was any question at that time as to Amber Lowery's whereabouts.

Around 1 p.m., a Rising Star woman saw a man coming from the area of the laundry mat, carrying a car seat and a baby. She saw the man walking later on Highway 36 and gave him a ride, letting him out at the driveway of the Lowery family's home.

At that point, Ryan Christensen, waiting for his sister to arrive in Bluff Dale, was getting worried. She hadn't shown and Christensen couldn't contact her.

At 4:24 p.m., Christensen asked Comanche County Sheriff's officials  to check on his sister, who had not shown up as expected that morning in Bluff Dale.

Christensen said he'd tried without success to contact his sister and said Lowery had been threatening to harm Amber.

Comanche County Sheriff's Sgt. Robert Jolley went to the Lowery family's home and spoke with Mike Lowery. Jolley asked to speak with Amber. Lowery said his wife had left the night before (July 23) and he'd had no contact with her. Lowery said he was home with his sons and he had called into work, saying he couldn't make it because he couldn't leave the boys.

Jolley asked Lowery if he and his wife had been having any problems and Lowery said no, and said he had "not laid a hand on her." Lowery said his wife was suffering from postpartum depression and was depressed because of the deaths of her parents.

At some point — the affidavits don't specify when — Maltby spoke with Christensen, who said Lowery had broken Amber's nose while they were in Missouri and had broken her arm in San Antonio. Christensen said the family had tried to persuade Amber to leave Mike Lowery "for her own safety."

At 7 p.m. Jolley returned to the Lowery home, accompanied by Maltby. Maltby told Lowery sheriff's investigators were becoming concerned because no one could contact Amber. Lowery said he, too, was concerned and wanted to file a missing person report.

Maltby obtained text messaging between the couple. Lowery said he had left for work around 3 p.m. and while en route to Sabine Pass, around 4:30 p.m., he began receiving text messages from Amber. She was upset because her husband had removed photographs from a computer and she accused him of having a girlfriend. Amber also texted she had contacted a lawyer about a divorce and indicated she was shutting off the phone.

Lain, of the Texas Rangers, said he saw a text message conversation between Mike and Amber Lowery that was "emotionally charged exchange regarding threats of separation, moving shared property out of the (home) and divorce attorneys."

Lowery told Maltby he returned home at 9:30 p.m. "to stop Amber Lowery from leaving him."

Lowery said Amber "was very angry" and got into her 2011 Honda CRV at 9:45 p.m. Amber "sped out of the driveway, throwing rocks from the tires as she left," Lowery said. He also said hadn't heard from her since then and said he had made numerous calls that went to voice mail.

Saturday, July 27

Around noon, Maltby learned a citizen had seen Amber Lowery's Honda at the laundry mat and notified the Eastland County Sheriff's Office. Several people told investigators the Honda had been there since Tuesday, July 23, or Wednesday, July 24.

Monday, July 29

Maltby and Crawford learned the Rising Star woman had picked up the man who was walking with a baby and given him a ride to the Lowery family's home.

Maltby showed the woman a photo lineup but she could not identify the man as Lowery.

Crawford interviewed the man who had seen the Honda SUV pull into the laundry mat lot and identified Lowery from a photo lineup as the driver.

Also that day, Crawford spoke by phone with Mike Lowery's brother, David, an Air Force officer stationed in Florida. David Lowery said his brother "had received mental counseling for anger management problems for most of his life."

David Lowery also claimed his brother had abused Amber "both physically and verbally, threatening to make her disappear." David Lowery described their relationship as "fire and ice."

Tuesday, July 30

The woman who'd given the man a ride called Crawford and said she'd seen Mike Lowery being interviewed in a television news report, and she knew it was the same man to whom she'd given a ride.

Maltby, Crawford and Lain swore out their affidavits that day.

Maltby's affidavit also states that statements from witnesses indicate Amber Lowery "did not drive away on (July 23) … but that Michael Lowery drove the vehicle and parked it at the laundry mat in Rising Star and started walking home with his baby boy."

The affidavit also states that Maltby spoke with one of Amber Lowery's relatives. The relative said Mike Lowery had told her "he could kill Amber and bury her on the ranch and they would never find her."

Lowery was arrested late that night in a hallway at the Brown County Sheriff's Office on a murder warrant.